The West Side Story legend was honored at Variety's Power of Women event.


Rita Moreno is an icon of Latin artistry. For more than 70 years, the actress, dancer, and singer has dazzled audiences with her notable films, including Singin' in the Rain, West Side Story, and Where on Earth Is Carmen Sandiego?

The Puerto Rican star was honored at Variety's Power of Women event presented by Lifetime this week alongside Katy Perry, Amanda Gorman, Lorde, and Channing Dungey. 

"Being included as one bloom in this extraordinary bouquet of exceptional women is truly a powerful feeling, and I have to say I'm feeling both inspired and exhilarated," she said.

At almost 90-years-old and full of life, she took the stage and delivered an empowering speech calling women to "keep the fires burning for those who aspire" and describing her journey to finding power in her own life. 

"Given my background, feeling powerful is a significant reality," Moreno said. "Growing up as a young Latina immigrant in a racist and patriarchal society, I honestly couldn't even imagine what that might have felt like. It was so far out of reach. All I could muster was the inner strength to work toward my dream of becoming a successful actress. But the struggle was a daily reality, and sadly, sometimes still is."

Moreno referred to her childhood, where she zig-zagged through the streets of el barrio, walking to school "trying to avoid the gangs," and later on as an aspiring actress "fending off any number of unwanted and terrifying advances from various studio executives."

Rita Moreno
Credit: Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Variety

"You can imagine I just had to find inner strength and indeed I have, but it is part of a continuous journey and I am still a traveler along that road," the actress said smiling. "Tenacity and perseverance are key qualities that I happily found developing through the years of struggles and triumphs, finding that strength that can forge your character and ultimately fuel a career of 75 years."

Moreno continued her speech with a warning and a word of hope in regards to how power can transform us for better or worse, all depending on how we learn to us it. 

"And if that sounds like a warning, it is.My hope is that as more women, like the ones honored here tonight, gain positions of power and influence, they continue to keep the fires burning for those who aspire. We live in a time that requires us to be vigilant," she explained. "As women, many issues require our attention in these dark days — when our leaders politicize the wearing of masks and polarize our citizens over vaccines; when in the mind of many, climate change is science fiction and healthcare is still not codified as a basic human right in a divided America."

Rita moreno
Credit: Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Variety)

However, she finished her speech, hopeful that we will change the world through the bonds of sisterhood and community. 

"None of us can take on the world by ourselves, but if there is one thing I am sure of in my 90 years, it is the power of a sisterhood of women working for change," she said . "Life grows within us and we are its caretakers — we are heavily invested! I believe all women have the potential to bloom where they are planted."